By Nika Zamani
One topic of debate is whether naps during the day are beneficial or detrimental for one’s well-being. So far, there is no clear answer because both sides of the argument have points backed up by scientific evidence.
On one hand, naps can be seen as beneficial. Professor Axel Mecklinger, Ph.D., from Saarland University conducted an experiment with college students that proved that naps help people retain and memorize information better. Mecklinger performed this experiment by asking the participants to remember word pairs. These word pairs were made to essentially provide no feeling of familiarity. For example, a word pair could be ‘milk-taxi.’ These two words have no connection and are therefore meaningless to the participants. After being told 120 word pairs, one group watched DVDs, while the other group took a nap.
The researchers focused primarily on the job of the hippocampus which is the section of the brain where memories are stored. The hippocampus also takes previously learned information and transports it to long-term memory storage.
As the participants were sleeping, their sleep spindles, a specific type of brain activity that plays a crucial role in memory consolidation during sleep, were closely monitored. Sara Studte, a graduate biologist, explains the term “sleep spindle” as quick burts of oscillations in the electroencephalogram. The more sleep spindles a person has, the better the obtained information will be remembered.
Dr. Mecklinger explains that new data is given a title, making it easier to remember that data later on. To support this, the participants who took naps after learning new information performed significantly better than the group who watched DVDs when it came to remembering the word pairs.
However, Meredith Health Group states that napping during the day may result in unhealthy sleep habits for people who struggle with sleep problems generated by stress, illness or jet lag. Others may not have the time to put their duties on hold while they take a nap in the middle of the day.
Junior Nova Helin is very busy with her extracurricular activities, and although she would love to take naps during the day, she doesn’t have the time.
“With horseback riding, babysitting, and a heavy homework load, there is no possible way for me to take a nap a during the day,” Helin said.
Furthermore, naps can throw off the ability to easily fall asleep at night. According to Tuck, the average adult is recommended to have at least eight hours of sleep each night, and for some people, taking naps does not allow for that.
Despite this, napping affects each person differently, and examples of this can be seen in MVHS students.
Freshman Mary Choy has taken an hour long nap each day after school since sixth grade and feels that naps benefit her greatly.
“Usually when I wake up from a nap, I feel more energized,” Choy said. “I feel like it helps me be more efficient with my homework.”
Lifestyle/Sleep, provides support for Choy’s comment, stating that naps can enhance alertness, leaving you revived, and energized.
While Choy feels that naps benefit her, sophomore Isak Westelius brings up a negative side effect for daytime napping.
“I think napping would mess up my sleep pattern a lot,” Westelius said. “I might as well add the time I would be napping to my nighttime sleep.”
Westilius also feels that with homework and sports, it’s not practical for his schedule to add naptime.
Lacking in nighttime sleep is a problem for some students. However, it is important that students don’t use daytime naps as a replacement, according to Dr. John Solic of Mount Nittany Physician Group in Valley Magazine’s interview with Solic explains that sleeping through the night and sleeping during the day affect the body differently.
According to Solic, daytime naps are not necessary for a healthy lifestyle, while nighttime sleep is. This is because sleeping at night gives the body time to restore its energy levels by cycling through REM and NREM periods. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and NREM stands for non-rapid eye movement periods. Valley Sleep Center highlights the importance of REM sleep by stating that REM sleep triggers the areas in the brain that are crucial in learning, making and retaining memories. NREM sleep has a total of three or four stages, according to different scientists.
Each stage lasts between five to fifteen minutes according to WebMD. After these stages, the person reaches the REM stage. In each NREM stage, the person is going into deeper sleep, and once it reaches the REM stage, the cycle repeats until morning. Every time the brain reaches the REM stage, the time spent in the REM stage is increased. REM sleep is very important, and napping during the day may result in fewer sleep cycles during the night.
Overall, naps impact each person differently, but science proves that there are benefits and drawbacks. Naps during the day are acceptable, as long as they aren’t being used as substitute for nighttime sleep. Sleep.org recommends students to get eight to ten hours of sleep each night. As long as those requirements are being met, Mecklinger states that a short nap is allowable and can significantly benefit learning success.